New to Hi-Fi and looking to build my first decent setup. But what should it be?

lavery

Novice Member
Hi everyone,

as the title says, I'm new to Hi-Fi. My faithful Logitech powered speakers seem to be slowly dying (or at least the subwoofer is) and I was wondering what I should replace them with. So I decided to build my first decent system. Nothing too fancy though. I was thinking around 500 Euros. The following is what I have in mind:


My source is mostly going to be my laptop, which I want to connect to the SMSL AD 18 DAC/amplifier (currently 145 Euros on Amazon Germany).


For speakers, I want to get the ELAC Debut B5.2s (on sale for 250 Euros at a local store). According to the reviews I've watched, the Elacs have good bass, but I might end up adding a subwoofer at a later stage (at which point I would be at around 500 Euros). I mostly listen to electronic music (hardstyle, hardcore, trance etc.), but pop and other stuff as well, and I've heard that having good bass is pretty important for electronic music (as I said, I'm a newbie :)).


What do you think? Am I missing any component? Do you think these speakers will work well with the kind of music I listen to? (most of the reviewers on youtube tend to listen to other genres. Does genre even matter as long as the speakers are at least decent at all frequencies?). I don't need a fancy system, I was actually having a blast with my crappy sub 100 Euros Logitech speakers. But a little upgrade would be nice too ^^


An even cheaper alternative would be to buy better powered speakers, but I don't know if that would be smart. They don't come with a DAC, do they ?(in which case I would still have to buy one and might as well buy passive speakers).


Or I could get cheaper passive speakers but I think the ELAC Debut B5.2s are good value and would be good enough for me to no not want to upgrade them for a long time (I don't know if that would be the case if I were to get cheaper speakers).


I've done some research but before I go out (metaphorically ^^) and spend 500 Euros I would like to have a second opinion since I don't know much about audio equipment.

Thank you!
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Nothing glaringly wrong with your setup.

However, as an alternative look at the topping e30 dac preamp review here and maybe look at adam t5v reviews, these speakers have amp built in. I'd guess the smsl won't drive the elacs with the quality they deserve

Welcome to the forum
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I’m compelled to agree with muljao.

The SMLS is a decent very budget amp. But not really up to driving the Elacs to their best.

The Topping E30 is the dac pre of the moment and a superb bargain.


An amp a pair of these, also at a bargain price here. They are priced individually, so you’ll need to buy two (€310).


You will be genuinely delighted with the pairing of the Adams and the Topping.

If you decide still need a sub I’d save a bit more. Cheap subs are not worth the money. A good one will be at least €300.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
If you need to keep the budget down a bit to start saving for a subwoofer then I’d buy these speakers (again priced as single speakers so the total price will be €236)

 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
Agree with muljao - nice system. I've used a different SMSL amp which has impressive audio quality and has proved reliable (around 8 - 10 years old now, used every day for TV sound). The Elac speakers get great reviews and the SMSL AD18 should output around 50 - 60W/channel into them which is fine.

Almost as important as the hardware is the room in which they'll be used and positioning of speakers in that room. The Elac's are relatively small speakers so will struggle to fill a medium to large room with clean, high volume audio. Much better suited to small to medium sized spaces. I would expect these speakers to sound at their best when sited on stands a foot or more from rear walls and at least a couple of feet from side walls. They won't shine when placed backs to the wall on a desk, for instance (excuse my use of imperial units but, as the UK has now left the EU, I feel at liberty to use them again ;)).

An even cheaper alternative would be to buy better powered speakers, but I don't know if that would be smart. They don't come with a DAC, do they ?(in which case I would still have to buy one and might as well buy passive speakers).

The Adam speakers suggested in post#2 are not only powered but active - which is a 'special' form of powered (worth a Google if interested) and one that I myself favour.

Many powered speakers, especially at the budget end, are simply passive speakers with inbuilt amplifiers. Active speakers use different, IMO superior, technology. Not only that, actively driven speakers can include sophisticated DSP which is capable of some amazing signal processing - and the technology has now trickled down to the budget end of the market. So, whilst I've nothing against powered passive speakers, I would suggest your alternative to the SMSL/Elac setup would be a pair of active speakers, like the Adams or these:

(note: often priced individually)

Behringer Studio 50USB (a different connection format but still a true active speaker - and price is for a pair!)
RCF Ayra Pro5 (clever built-in linear phase DSP)

But you would need a DAC because most active speakers don't have them built in (the exception being the Behringer in the above list). You would also need to consider how volume would be controlled so a DAC with volume control would be good, or use a stand-alone volume control inline between dac and active speakers, something like these:

The type of subwoofer used with active speakers tends to be a studio type which has high-pass filtered outputs for the main speaker pair built in. This feature removes the deep bass burden from the main speaker pair allowing them to play louder and cleaner than might be expected. (Note that some domestic subs have the same high-pass feature, such as those from Velodyne, SVS etc). This is an example:

Just about the best reviewed active speaker with inbuilt DAC and remote control in your budget is:

Has digital inputs but not USB.
 

lavery

Novice Member
Thanks for all the quick and detailed replies! They've been really helpful and educational :D!

- I guess I should have told you about the room I will be listening in:

It's L-shaped and I will be sitting at one end of one of the “legs” of the room. This leg is about 2.50 x 2.50 meters (8ft by 8ft for dogfonos ;) ) and the speakers will also be about 2.50 meters away from me with plenty of space behind them and some space away from the side walls. I hope that makes sense.


- Could you explain why the SMSL might not be enough for the Elacs? Do you mean in terms of volume or sound quality or both?
So the Topping would be superior to the SMSL as a Dac?


- How do I go about connecting a subwoofer if I get, for example, the Topping and Adams? The SMSL has a subwoofer out, the Topping does not, does it? Sorry about all these questions but I just started learning about this stuff two weeks ago.


- I know this is a tough question but would the Adams or the JBLs be closer to the sound quality of the Elacs?I figured that since the JBLs have a built-in amp (and so do the Adams) but cost about the same as the Elacs, they probably don't sound quite as good. Is that right?
In that case I would be gravitating more towards the Adams since I want to be reasonably sure that I am buying something that I will be happy with in 5years+ without thinking "if only I had spent that extra 60 bucks". But then again, they would probably both sound more than good enough to my ears ^^

Agree with muljao - nice system. I've used a different SMSL amp which has impressive audio quality and has proved reliable (around 8 - 10 years old now, used every day for TV sound). The Elac speakers get great reviews and the SMSL AD18 should output around 50 - 60W/channel into them which is fine.
So you think the Topping and Adam combo is nice, but the SMSL might also be enough for the Elacs? Is that what you mean?



But you would need a DAC because most active speakers don't have them built in (the exception being the Behringer in the above list). You would also need to consider how volume would be controlled so a DAC with volume control would be good, or use a stand-alone volume control inline between dac and active speakers, something like these
Just to be clear, the Topping does have volume control, right?

The type of subwoofer used with active speakers tends to be a studio type which has high-pass filtered outputs for the main speaker pair built in. This feature removes the deep bass burden from the main speaker pair allowing them to play louder and cleaner than might be expected. (Note that some domestic subs have the same high-pass feature, such as those from Velodyne, SVS etc)
I have heard about these kinds of subwoofers. Really interesting stuff!



Just about the best reviewed active speaker with inbuilt DAC and remote control in your budget is:
Do you get more bang for your buck if you buy separate parts or are these "all in ones" roughly the same value? The thing I'm also worried about is if this thing breaks after the warranty, I can throw everything away. But if I buy separate parts I would only need to replace one device.


Have a great evening! Most of you are based in the UK, right? I honestly didn't know much about this forum, I just picked it because it looked like it was quite active
 

lavery

Novice Member
Another thing that came to my mind: Are there any affordable speakers that are not produced in China? Anything below, let's say, 500-700 Dollars? I know that Schiit produces in the US, but I think they don't make speakers. If I had a choice I would like to not support the working conditions in China. But as far as I've seen, all the affordable equipment is made in China :(
I've had a look at chinanever.com and only found high end stuff. Like 2000 Dollars upwards
 

dogfonos

Well-known Member
the room I will be listening in:

It's L-shaped and I will be sitting at one end of one of the “legs” of the room. This leg is about 2.50 x 2.50 meters (8ft by 8ft for dogfonos ;) ) and the speakers will also be about 2.50 meters away from me with plenty of space behind them and some space away from the side walls.

Acoustically speaking, L-shaped rooms are often difficult to understand and predict . Whilst I don't fully understand your room's shape, a speaker pair, each with a 5" bass/mid driver, seems like a good fit.

Could you explain why the SMSL might not be enough for the Elacs? Do you mean in terms of volume or sound quality or both?

In terms of specified power output, it seems fine to me - a good power match. I can't comment on the audio quality of this specific SMSL model as I've not heard it, however, one detailed objective review I've seen isn't impressed:

Just to be clear, the Topping does have volume control, right?

According to the recent review on avforums, the Topping E30 has a digital volume control:

I have heard about these kinds of subwoofers. Really interesting stuff!
Just my view but one important consideration for me, should I ever purchase a subwoofer, would be to relieve the main/satellite speakers of deep bass. This is particularly important with smaller two-way main speakers because it reduces doppler distortion and increases max. volume available. IMO, unless the room is massive, main speakers with 5" bass/mid drivers (or thereabouts) usually work best with subs (that have a high-pass filter for the main speakers) because the 5" driver is usually better suited to producing a clean midrange that larger drivers yet still provide enough output down to around 80 - 100Hz. No doubt there will be exceptions though.

Do you get more bang for your buck if you buy separate parts or are these "all in ones" roughly the same value? The thing I'm also worried about is if this thing breaks after the warranty, I can throw everything away. But if I buy separate parts I would only need to replace one device.

In terms of sound quality, you generally get more bang for your buck with all-in-one solutions - I guess that's just economies of scale. You're quite right about component failures though. These days (in the UK, at least) it's often not easy or cheap to get electronic equipment repaired. And if you've purchased an all-in-one solution bargain, then repair is rarely economically viable. It's a compromise so it's up to the individual.

There is another factor at play here. In terms of value for money, many (most?) folk using these forums now realise that buying professional music products for home use gives better price performance than traditional hifi gear. I'm no economist but hobbyist products (such as hifi) are nearly always more expensive than performance-equivalent products aimed at the working market. The line is becoming blurred though with traditional pro music equipment manufacturers, such as Adam, now producing products for the hobbyist sector (i.e. the'TV' range of active speakers). And traditional hifi/PC/multi-media equipment manufacturers, such as Edifier, now producing speakers that wouldn't be out of place in a music studio (i.e. the 'Pro' active speakers).

Are there any affordable speakers that are not produced in China? Anything below, let's say, 500-700 Dollars?

There have been similar questions asked on these forums before. I think the general consensus was no. There are cases where parts are manufacured elsewhere then assembled in China (and possibly vice versa).

So you think the Topping and Adam combo is nice, but the SMSL might also be enough for the Elacs? Is that what you mean?

I suspect the Topping E30/Adam T5V combination suggested by Paul7777x in post#3 would have better audio quality than the SMSL AD18/Elac Debut B5.2. However, I can't be definate about this because I haven't heard either of these setups. The reason I expect the Topping/Adam setup to sound better is because the Adams are a good example of an active speaker and, in my experience, a good active speaker nearly always outperforms a good passive speaker of similar cost. Others may disagree but one point I'd bear in mind is that folks who now advocate the active speaker approach (as I do) have invariably owned passive speakers in the past so have experience, often considerable, of living with both types.

Although several folk on this forum use active nearfield studio monitors for their listening pleasure, they aren't exactly good to look at (the speakers, not the forum members!) but I would point out that many recent speaker designs, aimed at the domestic market, have been active and look good too. Kii Audio Three, Buchardt S500, Dutch&Dutch 8C, Kef LS50 wireless and Elac Navis are examples. The inceasing number of domestically orientated active speakers may be the main reason why products such as the Topping E30 exist.
 

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